Spa Agony Aunt: 2010 round-up

We all think of a spa treatment as the ultimate treat, but for some people it can be quite daunting. Senior therapist Sarah Endacott of Calcot Spa in The Cotswolds, answered all your questions on everything from privacy to pedicures and hot stone massages to herbal wraps…



Senior Therapist Sarah Endacott of Calcot Spa in The Cotswolds


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Q.  Is there a limit to the amount of treatments I should have in one day?

A.  There is no limit as long as you do not have too much of the same! An ideal spa day for me would include a massage, facial, manicure and pedicure, this would take around four to five hours and would take up a large chunk of my day, as the treatments do not conflict with one another there would be no problem.

However I would not recommend more than one massage as over doing it with massage can make you feel very unwell, also do not have different complimentary therapies on the same day, and in some cases even over two days would not be recommended.

Q.   What is the difference between a relaxation/pampering spa and destination spa?

A.   A destination spa is where you would go for a more intensive and comprehensive health program spread over a number of days, your schedule could include such things a s personal training, a nutritional program, treatments, healthy eating plan etc.

A pampering spa can offer one day spa packages but also longer stays, there is not so much focus on a healthy regime and in most cases offer treatments with optional fitness extras if required, the later are generally more of a relaxing or pampering break whereas a destination spa can bring about some serious lifestyle changes.

Q.  I am booked in for my first spa treatment and it states I should arrive 30 minutes early. Why do I have to get there early and what should I do before my treatment?

A. We ask guests to arrive in plenty of time before their treatment start time, this is so they can change into a robe if they wish, fill in a health questionnaire and relax before their treatment begins. There is nothing worse than rushing to get your appointment. If guests arrive bang on their treatment time, then decide they want to change into bath robes, it robs them of their precious treatment time. Better to be early than late, beginning your treatment in a relaxed state can only benefit you.

Q.  When I visit a spa I always get confused what type of massage uses hard pressure or soft pressure. Please could you let me know the names of the most popular massages and what type of pressure they apply so I can select the one suitable for my needs?

A.  There are so many different massage techniques and so much choice these days which is fantastic, however, it can be confusing! It is very important that your therapist ensures you get the pressure you want during your treatment. Aromatherapy massages are generally a more relaxing massage, shiatsu (which literally translates from Japanese to finger pressure) is a deeper, more concentrated pressure.

Deep tissue and sports massage are designed to work deeply on specific problem areas or muscle groups and are not for the faint hearted! A more traditional and standard massage is the Swedish massage.

Whichever massage you opt for, always read the explanation provided by the spa and don’t be afraid to ask a therapist to help you. Your therapist should check how the pressure is throughout your massage and don’t be afraid to ask for it deeper or lighter as it’s your treat and you should receive the pressure you require - we are all different.

Q.   I am booked in for a 'Mother and Daughter' weekend at a popular spa but I have said that I don't want a massage or facial so my daughter has booked me in for some reflexology. Please could you explain how this works and what benefits it has?

A.  Reflexology has been around for a very long time. Originating in China it has been adapted and is now used extensively in the western world. The basic principle of reflexology is based on meridian lines that run throughout the body and by working on these areas on the feet we can unblock any stagnant energy which can cause health problems. By performing reflexology we can re-balance the body. We do not however diagnose illnesses and the whole aim of the treatment is to restore equilibrium throughout and promote relaxation.

Q.  I am five months pregnant and starting to feel a bit uncomfortable - is it safe to have any form of massage during the second trimester as my back is aching?

A. I would only advise you to have a specialised maternity massage and only after the first trimester. While pregnant you need to have this specialised massage as we need to avoid putting too much pressure on certain areas of your body as it is going through so many changes.

Positioning is also important. We use a maternity cushion which means you can lie on your side with this between your legs and also with your legs raised it helps drain any excess fluid from the leg and ankle areas. It is deeply relaxing to have massages while pregnant as it is important to keep muscles as loose and relaxed as possible.

Q.  I’m a relatively new spa goer and am often left feeling embarrassed because I don’t know it’s appropriate to walk from my hotel room to the spa and back in a bathrobe and slippers or if I should dress and change into spa attire once I arrive at the spa and change again before going back to my room. What do you recommend?

A.  I recommend that you do whatever feels comfortable for you. Each hotel spa is different and if you are unsure of the spa etiquette at a particular establishment then the staff will be able to make some suggestions to ensure you feel comfortable.

At Calcot the hotel is just a couple of minutes walk from the spa so some guests do walk from hotel room to spa and back in their robes, some choose to arrive and depart the spa in their clothes, it really is a personal choice. personally I just love staying in my robe for as long as possible!

Q.   My girlfriends and I are planning a weekend away for some spa pampering and fine wine and cuisine. Is it OK to drink alcohol a few hours after a treatment and use of the steam room and hot-tub?

A.   I would not recommended drinking alcohol in excess on the same day as having a treatment, and using any heat facility is definitely not recommended if you are planning on drinking excessive amounts of alcohol.

The reason being that most treatments have some form of massage/drainage therefore after the treatment your lymphatic system is working really hard to flush unwanted waste products out of your system.

So, plenty of water is required to help this process along. As alcohol will dehydrate you further it will obviously have the opposite effect and can make you feel quite unwell. Caution must be taken at all times. Again, if you are unsure please seek advice from your therapist or the spa you are visiting.

Q.  My husband never knows whether to wear a swimming costume or underwear during a treatment or remove everything. What is the correct etiquette?

A. We require all male guests to wear underwear during any treatments, if a guest wishes to wear his swim wear this is fine, however at times when swim wear is wet it can often be uncomfortable for guests. We always have disposable boxer shorts to offer guests. This also means that no massage oil or other treatment products would stain underwear or swim wear.

Q.  I’m looking for a spa holiday which offers me more than just a massage and facial. I am quite interested in Ayurveda but please could you tell me more about this Indian treatment?

A.  On this one I can speak with first hand experience, I was lucky enough to visit India four years ago and had an ayurvedic treatment while I was in the south of the country. Ayurvedic treatments are holistic in that they consist of a full consultation (lasting up to three hours) by a doctor. The information is then passed onto your therapist who designs and carries out your bespoke treatment using ingredients chosen especially for you. Your treatment is also impacted by which body type you are, this also determines which oils and herbs they may use in your treatment. So whether you choose a one-off treatment as I did on holiday or a completely Ayurvedic get away, I would recommended you visit a reputable establishment and go in with an open mind and remember to be truthful in your consultation especially with regard to general health and diet!

Q.  I moved to the UK from the Middle East three months ago and I am desperate for a hot stone massage. Please could you reassure me that I will get privacy before, during and after my spa treatment as I am very shy and used to the customs of the Middle East where we have women only spas.

A. As a therapist I deal with bashful clients on a regular basis. A therapist’s aim should always be to ensure all clients feel completely comfortable and at ease. Therapists should be discreet at all times and leave clients in private to get undressed and ensure their modesty is respected whether a male or a female client is with us. As you are used to female only spas please do not be put off by our mixed sex spas in the UK. I feel that it is great that so many men now want to indulge, relax and unwind in the same way that predominately women have in the past.

Q.  What is the best massage and facial to have to ease the effects of jet-lag following a long-haul flight?

A. The best kind of massage and facial combination would be a massage incorporating the face and body using deep drainage massage techniques. Aromatherapy Associates aromatherapy massage is a comprehensive treatment which works from top-to-toe on specialised pressure points, including scalp, full body and reflex points on the feet. We would use a blend of oils containing juniper, pink grapefruit and rosemary called "revive" and it really does what it says on the bottle!

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